CEOs are losing their mojo as economic woes deepen

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The economic anxiety gripping the country goes all the way to the top, according to a new survey. Chief Executive, a magazine for corporate big shots, polled 371 CEOs and found them bruised by the deepening recession, sending the publication's CEO Confidence Index to its lowest level since measurements began six and a half years ago.

Nearly all the executives polled -- some 95 percent -- said current business and employment conditions are bad. Most also believe they'll remain that way for the foreseeable future. Seven in ten said the recession would deepen in the coming quarter, while three quarters said unemployment would get worse, too.

The survey's findings echo the results of a January poll of CEO confidence by the Conference Board, a global organization for business executives, which also returned its lowest-ever reading.

Perhaps surprsingly, a slim majority of the CEOs in Chief Executive's poll said they favored capping the pay of financial execs whose companies received funds from the government's bailout fund. Some 53 percent said the caps were appropriate.

A Chief Executive poll of CEOs' presidential preferences taken last summer helps put executives' support for the pay caps in context. The survey of 751 CEOs found 80 percent supported Sen. John McCain for president, while only 20 percent said they backed then-Sen. Barack Obama. The average grade the CEOs in the survey gave Obama was a D-plus.

"You don't give the captain of the Titanic a bonus for hitting an iceberg and causing the ship to drown. CEO's receiving bailout money for their sinking ships should be held to the same standard," said Horizon Steel Co.
CEO John Chirikas in statement that accompanied the confidence survey results.

"The interference from government is alarming, but frankly, it is a direct result of the terrible mismanagement by the financial community and sadly will have severe ramifications for all of us," Chirikas said in the statement.
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